I am 63 yrs old this year, I was raised around horses from birth. My Dad loved them and started his own cross-breed that made for a beautiful animal. He gave me a wonderful little bay gelding when I was 10.
Unfortunately, at the time I seemed to have more interest in conveyances of the motorized type and didn’t pay enough attention to Teddy. So, guess-what? Dad sold Teddy!
It took me a long time to really come to my senses, but I have regretted for many years the outcome of my lack-of-interest. There is still one descendant of Dad’s herd here on the farm as well as two of my daughter’s horses; her daughter’s mini and two more, belonging to my son. I don’t do much with them other than to make sure they have feed and aren’t injured and help the granddaughter with her mini when she visits. It seems there’s always too many other, more-important things to occupy my mind.
Just a few days ago I had the most amazing encounter with a wild/feral horse. Anyhow, I was driving around out in the bush west of my home, here in central Alberta when I came across a lone horse, about 100 yards distant, grazing in a recently-logged-off and scarified area.
I stopped the truck, took a picture and watched the horse for a few minutes and spoke to him once. He looked-up at me for a minute then carried on grazing. I then decided, what-the-heck, I’m going to see how close I can get to this fellow. So I started slowly walking his way. Each time that he lifted his head and appeared about to take flight, I would retreat a couple steps, turn my body at about 45 degrees to him and cast my eyes downward till he settled into grazing again. (Incidentally, I have read some of your work and was enrolled in your online university for one year).
Now this is where things got really interesting! I was now about 20 feet from the horse and he seemed fairly calm, having only flared his nostrils and blown softly a couple times. I could now see that he was an intact stallion and terribly scarred-up all over both sides of his back. The scarring and the fact he was alone, leads me to think he’d recently got run out of his herd. He was a nicely set-up little guy maybe 14-1/2 hands and if I had to guess, about 4 or 5 yrs old. Short-coupled; head and feet just-a-bit big for his body, with I believe, a touch of draft in him (he had a bit of long hair on his fetlocks). Predominately Dark Bay running into a Liver-Chestnut splash over the rump. All-in-all a nice-looking little fellow.
So at this point I had come to a large poplar log between us, so decided to just, set-a-spell. The horse then proceeded to circle around so that he was down-wind of me, alternately grazing and nonchalantly studying me. All the while, I too, tried not to stare at him too intently, just casually glancing up, then back down to his front legs.
After a couple minutes he started coming in the last 15 ft to me, till he got to where it looked like he would like to make one more step, but that would have required him to step over a small log and a gouge in the ground, which had been left by the scarifyer. This would have brought him in about two steps and I believe he was not comfortable with that idea. (I still chuckle to myself as I recall watching him ponder this)!
I thought I’d help him out, so slowly began to reach my hand out to him. He too reached out, to within about 8 inches of my hand, just briefly, then after a few seconds, quickly turned and trotted off about 20 feet and turned at about 45 degrees to me and stood casually looking at me for a bit.
I stayed seated on the log with my eyes mostly downcast but glancing up now and again. Suddenly he turned to face my way, from 20 feet out, square-on and let out the most powerful snort I have ever heard from any horse! I mean, like he put every ounce he had, into it I’m sure. Funny thing is, by this time I was so deep into this amazing encounter I didn’t even flinch, in spite of this sudden and powerful out-burst.
After standing looking right at me a bit with eyes wide and flared nostrils , he calmed down then quartered away, alternately cropping grass, glancing back and moving away till he disappeared over a hill some three hundred yards off. Finally Monty, I have come to my question! Did I miss my cue there? When he turned and moved away after sniffing my hand. Was it my turn to move towards him and I didn’t realize it?
Twenty-twenty hind-sight tells me he was enjoying this little game just as much as I was, and that, that was his invite for Join-Up? Also, what was that resounding snort? (Remember this came after the hand sniffing and retreat.) Was that perhaps a scare tactic, to see if I would take flight? Or, was he just (ha ha) voicing his disgust, at my lack of knowledge, of the rules-of-the-game!
A little background on the horse. He was in an area frequented by people on quads, dirt bikes and such, and so, used to seeing humans regularly, although never me, nor me him. Whether he had ever had contact with humans I do not know.
In closing I want to thank you Monty for sharing with the entire world, your vast knowledge of equine behavior and showing people how they can better interact with horses and other creatures, even humans. I have done some partially successful Join-Ups with some of our horses except for one docile little mutt who refuses to go into flight mode! So I want to study more of your lessons and put them into practice, therefor I intend to re-enroll, as soon as funds allow.
I apologize for such a lengthy story but, I was so fascinated, by this chance encounter, I just had to share, in hopes that other readers may find it interesting. I want to point out that the terrain we were in allowed me to keep some sort of obstacle; a tree, a stump, a fallen log, etc. between us, (just in case) at all times.
Although my Buddy showed no sign of aggression I thought it best to be careful. Thank you, and I do hope you will be able to find the time to respond. Sorry, I know you are a very busy man.
Gerald Hoszouski, Alberta